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DoD Saves Millions With Computer Software Initiative

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2002 – Do you know about ESI? DoD purchasing agents looking for the best deals in commercial computer software products and related information technology services certainly do.

ESI, or the Enterprise Software Initiative, is a joint acquisition program that started about four years ago, DoD program co-manager James Clausen noted. Under ESI, DoD software product managers identify and pool requirements for commercial software and related services, and then they present them to private industry along with a discussion on the mutual benefits of DoD-wide sales agreements, he said.

Using ESI can cut commercial software prices in half - and often much more, he pointed out.

Through ESI, the Defense Department "has avoided hundreds of millions in costs," emphasized Floyd Groce, ESI's other co-manager. Such results, he said, are dependent on the type of software, the manufacturer and the price point set by the General Services Administration's schedule contracts, one of more popular government contracting options.

About 20 software manufacturers currently participate in the ESI, Groce noted. "And we're always working on more," he added.

Another ESI benefit is the availability of some products, such as virus protection software, for free home use by service members and DoD civilians, Clausen said.

Groce noted that DoD's Business Initiative Council, a joint-service body that gathers and considers new, more efficient methods for DoD to conduct business, approved ESI on Sept. 19, 2001.

"The BIC has been a very positive influence on our continued ESI expansion and success within the Department of Defense," he continued. "We're not just trying to purchase and license software at lower prices across the department, we're also improving our processes for managing software assets. This can include the ability to transfer or re-deploy software licenses as needed."

ESI is included in ongoing revisions to defense acquisition guidance approved Oct. 30, 2002, by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Clausen said. The Federal Register published and incorporated ESI rules into the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, or DFARS, on Oct. 25, 2002, he said. DFARS is the bible for DoD acquisition operations.

"It was important to get the ESI into the DFARS, which tells any DoD acquiring or contracting official to use ESI when requirements call for a commercial software solution," Clausen said.

A related program, the Virtual Information Technology Marketplace, expands the ESI to include hardware and selected services, Groce noted. It also establishes an e- commerce system for ordering IT products and services through GSA Advantage, the online ordering system the GSA Federal Supply Service developed and manages for all the government to use.

GSA Advantage is already in operation and is now creating an "online store" for ESI products and services, Clausen explained. That program, he added, will be made accessible to DoD military and civilian customers.

The ESI working group is made up of 11 representatives from the military departments and several DoD agencies, Clausen noted. In fact, he said, the Department of the Navy donated the space for ESI's Web site. He said most of the people working on ESI do so in addition to their regular jobs in the department, which helps hold down program costs.

Clausen said ESI users include all DoD components and contractors when authorized by their contracting officers.

For more information, visit the ESI Web site at www.don-imit.navy.mil/esi.

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